Gospel Wakefulness by Jared C. Wilson

I am always a little nervous when I read a book by someone I know. Well, if by “know” you mean have interacted with online.  I have been reading Jared C. Wilson for some time online and have enjoyed his perspective on fiction, faith, and sports on Twitter as well.  So it was with some trepidation that I approached his book Gospel Wakefulness.

The concerns were thankfully unwarranted, as Jared has written a wonderfully engaging and challenging book on the gospel and its place in our lives.  With wisdom, compassion and humor he outlines what it means to be alive to the gospel in your life and have it infiltrate every area of that life.

Do you ever feel like your desire for God is waning? Are you numb to the routine of church? What does it mean to be truly awakened to the wonder of the gospel?

Jared Wilson contends that we must be regularly engaged and engaging others with the good news of the sacrificing, dying, rising, exalted person of Jesus Christ. Wilson reminds us of the death-proof, fail-proof King of kings who is before all things and in all things and holding all things together, and of the Spirit’s power to quicken our hearts and captivate our imaginations. The message of Gospel Wakefulness will make numbness the exception (rather than the norm) and reawaken us to the multifaceted brilliance of the gospel.

But it is another one of those deep and meaty spiritual books that I am simply not going to have the time or focus to review properly.  But if you are seeking a deeper and sustained faith and looking for a book that will both inspire and challenge you, then I recommend you read this book.

A book of this sort can easily come off and as a tired combination of verses and platitudes – the same old, same old dressed up as a revolutionary way to understand orthodox theology.  Or seemingly profound spirituality that quickly wilts under sustained examination.

But Wilson avoids that for two reasons.  He has lived it and it shows; and he keeps it simple.  Not simple in terms of ease but simple because he doesn’t over think it.

Because Wilson has lived this out and struggled with his own demons and doubts his writing has an authenticity that is refreshing and encouraging.  He also has a passion that comes off the page; a powerful sense that he believes in the power of the gospel and he is not just writing to prove how clever he is.

I made dozens of notes throughout the book, but here is a section that should give you sense of the book:

One of the marks of gospel wakefulness is the failure of anything else to thrill the soul like the gospel.  When the heart treasures Christ and savours his power, sin grows bitter.  Even good gifts that God made delicious recede to their proper flavors.  Good things we have made “god things” don’t cease to be good; in fact, they continue to provide pleasures and satisfactions, but they keep their proper functions and blessings, in service to the common grace the God of Glory ascribed to them.

Gospel wakefulness doesn’t lead to asceticism.  it does not lead to a withdrawal from society and simple pleasures into a monastic religious regimen.  Rather, gospel wakefulness is foremost about orienting your spiritual system around the sun.  When the sun is at the center of the system, the planets and moon don’t cease to exist.  in fact, they exist more securely, more beautifully, in their proper positions and proportions.  With God at the center of your universe of worship, with gospel at the center of your life, all other good gifts – people and pleasures, thoughts and things – take their proper place and proportion in our lives.

After outlining and unpacking the term gospel wakefulness, Wilson then moves on to discuss the impact this has on things like worship, spirituality, depression and church and results in a new approach to sanctification and increased confidence for the believer.

Along the way Wilson adds in stories from friends about how this has played out in their lives.  Many of these are compelling and some quite powerful.  The confession of someone who dealt with depression and struggled with Easter week was one of the more powerful expressions I have read in some time.

At its most basic this book is about not taking your eyes off what is truly important; not thinking that seemingly simple things are not deep enough to sustain the deepest of faiths.

Jesus is big enough to fit into infinity. He is the true light of the world.  He is the risen King, the exalted Lord.  He is before all things and in him all things come together.  All things were made through him and for him, that he might be preeminent to them and supreme over them.  He is the radiance of God;s glory.  One day we won’t need the sun, because he will be the lamp of the new heavens and the new earth.

Why in the world do we fix our eyes on anything but him?

If you find your eyes and mind easily distracted, Gospel Wakefulness will get you back on target.


Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).

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